cover image Venetian Ghetto

Venetian Ghetto

Rizzoli, Bernard Cooperman. Rizzoli International Publications, $43.2 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8478-1236-3

In 1516, fearful that the ``sworn enemies of Christ'' would pollute their religion, but practical enough to protect the health of their economy, the city fathers of Venice established a segregated Jewish section. Named ``Campo de Ghetto,'' it was the first ghetto in Europe. Until its destruction in 1721 by the French, the Venetian Ghetto was both haven and prison to a people expelled from most countries. During the day, Jews, identified by their colored badges, plied their trades on the Rialto, but at midnight the gates of their overcrowded citadel clanged shut. Up to 2000 Jews forged a community rich in religion, art and industry within barely seven acres that encompassed narrow alleyways, pawnshops, three remarkable Baroque synagogues. Illustrated with color photos of the restored haunts, this book tells too little of the life of the ghetto, while expounding at sometimes tedious length on its architecture. Cooperman is a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Maryland; Curiel is on staff at the Museum of Jewish Art in Venice. (Dec.)